France 9-8 Wales, Rugby World Cup, October 15, 2011
Warburton given three-week ban
ESPNscrum Staff
October 15, 2011
Referee Alain Rolland shows a red card to Sam Warburton, Wales v France, Rugby World Cup semi-final, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, October 15, 2011
Sam Warburton is shown a red card by referee Alain Rolland © Getty Images

Wales captain Sam Warburton has been given a three-week ban for his 'tip tackle' on Vincent Clerc in Saturday's World Cup semi-final.

Warburton was given a red card in the 18th minute of the game by referee Alain Rolland with Wales eventually crashing out 9-8 to Marc Lievremont's France.

Despite the offence usually warranting an entry level of six weeks, Warburton's good record at this World Cup put him in good stead. The skipper admitted his guilt and as a result will miss Friday's bronze final with either Australia or New Zealand and two RaboDirect PRO12 games for Cardiff Blues, although he has 48 hours in which to lodge any appeal. He will return on November 7 and be free to play in the first round of the Heineken Cup where Cardiff will face Racing Metro.

Tackles involving a player being lifted and tipped horizontally and then forced, or dropped, to the ground are illegal and constitute dangerous play, the International Rugby Board had previously ruled.

An IRB memorandum issued more than two years ago stated that such tackles "must be dealt with severely by referees and those involved in the off-field disciplinary process".

The independent judicial officer, England's Christopher Quinlan QC, concluded that the offence was mid-range on the scale of seriousness, which has an entry point of six weeks. He found that there were no aggravating features and there were compelling mitigating features, including the player's admission, outstanding character and disciplinary record and remorse, which saw the suspension cut in half.

Warburton said after the verdict: "Obviously I'm very disappointed but all my attention and focus now goes towards the players playing on Friday and supporting them the best I can."

He was accompanied at the hearing by Rhodri Lewis, the Welsh Rugby Union's head of legal affairs, who added: "The WRU respects the process and will not be commenting on the detail of the hearing. We are obviously, naturally, disappointed for Sam that he will not be able to play on Friday. Our focus now moves towards Friday's match.

"Sam has been an exemplary captain for Wales throughout the Rugby World Cup."

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said in a statement: "We are disappointed with the decision to suspend Wales captain Sam Warburton from the game for three weeks, following his red card dismissal in the Rugby World Cup semi-final. The WRU respects the process which has been followed and understands the disciplinary procedures in place.

"Our focus in now totally upon the forthcoming third place play-off international, which will be played at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday. The WRU further wishes to state its unequivocal support for Sam Warburton as a role model and exemplary captain who has led Wales to formidable success in the competition so far."

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